Solar Panels to Return to the White House Roof

Jimmy Carter put them on. Ronald Reagan took them off.

Now President Obama will put them back on again.

Solar panels will make their return to the White House roof, Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced today. An open-bidding process is being opened up through the General Services Administration, which handles all federal contracting. A GSA-approved solar-panel company will eventually do the honors of installing solar panels and a solar hot-water heater after a bid is approved, according to a White House official.

Carter's panels adorned the West Wing, while Obama's will sit atop the First Family's residence.

President Bush, who uses solar panels on his Crawford ranch in Texas, had solar panels installed on a White House maintenance building, as well as two smaller structures on the White House grounds.

The White House had been discussing solar-panel installation for some time--Press Secretary Robert Gibbs acknowledged as much when asked during a press briefing in February--though environmental activist Bill McKibben had undertaken a public campaign in recent months, calling on the White House to move forward with installation. The founder secured a meeting with White House representatives in September.

"We keep hearing, 'We'll see' and 'It's complicated,'" McKibben said at the time. "Compared with the other things Obama has to do, it seems relatively easy. You can't filibuster the roof."

Perhaps not compared to the other things Obama has to do, but logistics can be tricky with such fussed-over real estate. The White House residence roof may be the nation's number-one homeland-security priority, and it falls under a web of jurisdiction involving, among other concerns, both the Secret Service, the White House Historical Association.

The panels are being installed following an executive order last fall calling for broader sustainability efforts throughout the federal government.

Tax credits are available for home solar-panel installation across the country. Find them in this directory supplied by the Department of Energy.